Tenorio is 71 years old. He migrated here to Panama from Colombia with his brother at the age of 12. He has never owned any personal identification or documentation bearing his name. He lives in a leaky, primitive thatch hut with 5 children, ages 6 to 13, and his elderly wife. Tenorio lost his right arm at the age of 33 from a snakebite, fur-de-lance, which developed ¨cancer¨ (probably gangrene). I felt ashamed when I realized that Tenorio had loaded the canoe himself, with only the help of the 13 year old boy. 90 concrete blocks, 7 sacks of cement, and several lengths of rebar, but I guess he´s use to it. He had also collected all the rock and sand from the river with his wife and carried it to the site where we would help him build a composting latrine. Most of the children that live with Tenorio are not even family; I guess they are orphans of a sort… common vagabonds in a community plagued with alcoholism and depravations of all kinds.
I awoke the morning after our first day´s work before dawn with no sign of Tenorio. He had gone to the river to bath, but was back soon to prepare breakfast for the children, a dim flashlight balanced in the crook of his neck over his right shoulder. Later, he would prepare breakfast for us, pork from the plastic bucket. The pig was slaughtered just 2 days ago, or was it 3, so I assumed it would be alright. I´d like mine well-done please. It was an uncommon treat for Tenorio and his ¨family.¨ Pork and rice. We had it 3 meals in a row.
Tenorio seems very pleased with it all. This will be the first composting latrine in the community, so proper maintenance will be critical if this simple technology is to be adopted by other families. In the meantime, everyone else will continue to do what they´ve done throughout time immemorial… poop in the river.